Pune: World No 95 Ernest Gulbis claimed the first big upset of the Tata Open Maharashtra as he knocked out second seed Hyeon Chung in the second round on Wednesday.
The Korean, who was playing his first match in Pune after getting a first-round bye, started strong with a 4-0 lead, but struggled with his serve, eventually going down 6-7(2), 2-6 in one hour and 38 minutes.
There was a lot of home support for the 22-year-old Chung in the crowd with banners and the Korean national flag being waved by some of his fans. The supporters egged him on, even when he was a game away from defeat, but it was the Latvian who notched the win. The Korean was playing competitive tennis after almost three months out due to persistent injuries.
Meanwhile top-seed Kevin Anderson had it tough against world No. 93 Laslo Djere as both the sets went into the tie-break. However, the world No 6 used his big serve to good effect and secures his quarter-final spot in straight sets 7-6(3), 7-6(6).
Fifth seed Benoit Paire, who reached the semi-final in 2018, made quick work of world No. 89 Jiri Vesely, winning the Court 1 match 6-4, 6-2.
Elsewhere, 21-year-old Jaume Munar beat qualifier Simone Bolelli comfortably in straight sets 7-5, 6-0, while the oldest player in the draw, Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, also progressed to the quarters, beating Evgeny Donskoy 6-4, 7-5.
Gulbis bounces back
Chung and Gulbis are separated by 70 ranking spots, but the Latvian is a former top-10 player and can get the better of anyone on his day, as he has so often done in the past, especially at Wimbledon last year.
Chung started by breaking the 30-year-old twice to lead 5-1, but one error led to another and, then, a lapse in concentration cost him his serve twice to make it 5-5. Chung kept at it after that, grinding out long rallies from behind the baseline, but leaked one error too many to take the set to a tiebreak.
Once in the tiebreak, the Latvian raced to 5-0 lead as he kept returning with interest. He had set points on serve but committed a double fault. However, he had enough of an advantage to finally clinch the set within an hour.
Gulbis got the early break in the second set as well, breaking in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead as Chung continued to commit errors. The world No 95 then consolidated with a love hold to take control of the match at 4-2.
Chung seemed to struggle with his serve as he gave up a triple break point in the next game and then the decisive break when his backhand went long. Serving for the match, the Latvian didn’t leave much room for error as a shank from the Korean ended his first match of the year.
Chung, who has beaten Gulbis in the Barcelona qualifying in 2017, hasn’t played on the ATP Tour since the Stockholm Open in October, when he retired against Fognini in the quarter-final. He has been plagued by injuries whole through last year, since retiring from the Australian Open semi-final against Roger Federer.